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The history of Kente Cloth, Our precious Heritage

The History of Kente

KENTE is a brilliantly colourful fabric, entirely hand-woven by Ghanaian weavers. The brilliant colours and intricate designs associated with Kente have definitely made this fabric the best known of all Ghanaian, and perhaps even all West African textiles. Every design has a story with a proverbial meaning, giving each cloth its own distinction.

Kente cloth is usually worn for ceremonies, festivals, and other sacred occasions. It is also given as a gift for weddings, child naming ceremonies, graduations, and other special events. The history of Kente weaving extends back more than 400 years. The word “Kente” comes from the word “kenten”, which means basket. The very first Kente weavers used raffia, or palm leaf fibres, and wove them into a cloth that looked like a basket.

A kente weaver at his work weaving Kente
A kente weaver at his work weaving Kente

One story about Kente says that two friends learned to weave by observing a spider weave its web. They wove in imitation of the spider, using raffia fibres to create a strip of fabric. Their leaders were so impressed with this new cloth that it became the royal cloth and was saved for special occasions. There are more than 300 different patterns of Kente cloth. Each pattern has a name and its own meaning. The meanings come from past events, religious beliefs, political ideas, and social customs.

Symbolic Meanings of the Colours

Black: maturation, intensified spiritual energy

Blue: peacefulness, harmony, and love

Green: vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal

Gold: royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity

Grey: healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash

Maroon: the colour of mother earth; associated with healing

Pink: Associated with the female essence of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red

Purple: associated with feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women

Red: political and spiritual moods; bloodshed; sacrificial rites and death.

Silver: serenity, purity, joy; associated with the moon

White: purification, sanctification rites, and festive occasions

Yellow: preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility, beauty

A couple wearing Kente at their traditional Marriage

1 thought on “The history of Kente Cloth, Our precious Heritage

  1. […] At Ebony By Bernice one of our goals is to promote African and Ghanaian culture through our authentic African fabrics, especially Kente. […]

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